Form 133 Petitions Could Not Be Used to Prove Zero Property Tax Assessments for Common Area Land

Form 133 Petitions Could Not Be Used to Prove Zero Property Tax Assessments for Common Area Land

In a consolidated case involving more than two dozen appeals, the Indiana Tax Court on September 3, 2015, found in Pulte Homes of Indiana, LLC v. Hendricks County Assessor that the Indiana Board of Tax of Review properly dismissed Taxpayers’ petitions for multiple assessment dates, concluding that Taxpayers’ improperly used Form 133 petitions to claim their common areas of land in residential areas had no value.  The Court explained that a Form 133 petition can be used to assert three claims of error:  (1) the taxes were illegal as a matter of law, (2) there was a mathematical error in computing an assessment, or (3) through an error or omission by the county official, the taxpayer was not given credit for an exemption or deduction permitted by law.  Here, Taxpayers claimed, in part, that the assessments were illegal as a matter of law.

Evidentiary hearing not requiredTaxpayers contended that the Board could not dismiss its claims without holding an evidentiary hearing.  The Board had held a show cause hearing, at which deposition testimony and other exhibits were submitted.  A hearing was not required, the Court confirmed, when the Board confronted a preliminary procedural issue.  Slip op. at 7.

No per se rule of zero valueBased on precedent from the Tax Court and Board, Taxpayers asserted the common areas should have assessed values of zero.  That authority, however, was not controlling in the present cases.  Determining a zero assessment was an objective decision, Taxpayer further argued, as the decision involves “a simple, uncomplicated finding, which has already been made by many assessing officials, as to whether the subject property is a residential common area.”  Slip op. at 8.  In short, there was a per se rule that the assessment was zero.  Not so, the Court held.  Id. at 9.  “No per se rule exists that common areas have zero value, and therefore, any evidence presented would necessarily involve subjective judgment because the value cannot be determined from a simple rendition of objective facts.”  Because subjective judgment was required, use of the Form 133 petition was not appropriate.

Burden did not shiftTaxpayers argued the Assessor had the burden of proof under Indiana’s burden-shifting statute, Ind. Code § 6-1.1-15-17.2.  But that provision applies “only when the validity of the assessment is at issue, not when, as here, there is a preliminary procedural issue being determined.”  Id. at 10.

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